Biopsychosocial Model Transformations and Its Futureby Shaheen E Lakhan, MD, PhD, MEd, MS, FAAN | April 21, 2006
Engel’s portrayal of the biopsychosocial model has significantly redefined psychiatry, medicine, and psychology. With the emergence of health psychology and behavioral medicine in primary care settings and the training of general practitioners on different health paradigms, patients are increasingly aware that their medical providers view them as a person, and not solely by their disease.
In the past 25 years, the application of behavioral interventions and the research of health psychologists has both matured and been highly criticized. The more humanistic view of healthcare has observationally improved patient quality of life and wellness, but long-term empirical studies are necessary to fully solidify the role of health psychologists and combinatory treatments. Moreover, medical doctors are questioning the motives of altering medicine to incorporate behavioral interventions as a means of increasing the workload of already strained physicians. Psychology practitioners should use their research and education skills and vast knowledge of behavior to promote a more hospitable co-management of medical care.
The field of psychology is being constrained to change due to societal and health care transformations. The profession seeks to expand on the special skills of clinical and health psychology practitioners to new treatment settings in an autonomous fashion. As psychologists increasingly follow the biopsychosocial model, psychopharmacology is the last intervention to create an independent psychologist practitioner. However, if the field is to preserve the core values of psychology after prescription authority, psychologists must maintain inter-professional collaborations with physicians and continue to address the psychosocial aspects of medical problems. As it stands, perusing privileges may fracture relations between psychologists and physicians and thereby affect quality of treatment. Hopefully, the authority to prescribe medication will not expunge the grand heritage of clinical and health psychology as behavioral disciplines.
For the next 25 years, we will see stronger collaborations and partnerships in the diagnosis and management of all health. Health psychology training programs will increase in quantity and undergo specialization for students interested in practicing in clinical, education, and research settings. Moreover, professionals in contact with the public (e.g. counselors, internists, rehabilitation specialists, teachers, employers) and those who have influence on public policy (e.g. policy makers) ought to be educated on the biopsychosocial model and its impact of reducing health costs, provoking behavioral change, increasing adherence to treatment plans, promoting self-empowerment, and furthering occupational control. If the model moves at the pace it did these last three decades, integrated healthcare will finally address the entire spectrum of the human body and mind as one and the same.
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